Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls

Due to a serious of unfortunate events that ended up really working out in my favor, Kelly and I decided to spend a couple of days traveling in Brazil after school ended for the Christmas holiday. Next thing we knew, we had booked our plane tickets to jet on over to Foz do Iguaçu for a couple of days. 

Foz do Iguaçu is awesome. It's one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World (depending on which list you read). It's where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay all meet. It's home to waterfalls that put Niagara Falls to shame.

We left late, late, late on Friday night and arrived early, early, early on Saturday morning. We also stayed at the coolest hostel in the entire world-- Tetris Container Hostel. It's as interesting as it sounds, I promise. The whole hostel is constructed from old shipping containers-- the hostel itself, the pool, the bar. Really. We didn't appreciate it when we rolled on up in the wee hours of Saturday morning, but we did appreciate it later. We especially appreciated it during "Caipi O'Clock" AKA free caipirinhas each night. 

Before coming to the falls, we didn't really research much about what to do in Foz do Iguaçu because we wanted to just go with the flow. Hang out. Relax. It is vacation, afterall. The one thing we had heard is that the Argentinian side of the falls is more impressive so it's better to check out the Brazilian side first as to not be disappointed. Check. Done. And we definitely weren't disappointed.

Kelly and I spent about 3-4 hours at the park walking along a very easy trail that provided us with so many GORGEOUS views of the falls. It was also pouring rain the entire time we were there. My water-resistant raincoat didn't even stand a chance. The sub-par weather didn't make the experience any less incredible and beautiful, though.

First view of the falls. Obviously channeling my inner Lebron.

The trail dumps you out at the Garganta do Diabo/ Garganta del Diablo/ Devil's Throat which is basically where a bunch of waterfalls come together and there's a ton of water. (That's a horribly simplified explanation.) We were already soaked, so we passed on the rain ponchos. Poor choice, should have definitely bought the ponchos. It was so rainy/ windy/ misty; we left DRENCHED. But smiling.

At the Devil's Throat.
So excited that I couldn't even keep my eyes open. 

We closed out our first day in Foz do Iguaçu with an hour long wait for the bus, a bus ride to no where, and a 20 minute uphill walk to see the Marco do Tres Fronteiras, or the point where all three countries come together. Which ended up being a big fail because it was actually closed for construction until the day after we left. But using our pathetic looks and heavy breathing from walking sweet charm, one of the workers offered to give us a ride back into the town. Which, of course, I assumed was safe because he and I were speaking in Spanish. We had to wait about 10 minutes before the end of his shift was over, so we all hung around speaking Spanish and I asked what was actually happening down at the monument. And since we're so charming, he took us past the point where everyone else had to turn about and let us see what was happening. It was definitely still a letdown, but we technically saw the monument.

After conquering the Brazilian side, we obviously had to see the Argentinian side of the falls. As if there was even a question as to whether or not that was going to happen. I mean, the $160 that we each paid for a visa to Argentina pretty much confirmed that we were going. So we hopped on an all-day Argentinian tour and I was beside myself with happiness from hearing Spanish all day.

Our first stop on the tour was to see the Marco de las Tres Fronteras in Argentina. So we weren't able to get up close and personal with the one in Brazil, but we did get to see the one in Argentina. Worth the hype. We could also see the Brazilian one that they were working on and Kelly and I were both a little bitter when we saw it. Too soon, I suppose. 

After stopping at the Marco de las Tres Fronteras, we made our way to the falls. Where two parts of our tour were closed because the river was too high and the water was too strong and the bridges had broke in different places or were underwater. I was bummed, but listen, I'm not messing around with water that powerful. We walked A LOT and saw the falls from almost every place possible. I'm currently creating a flip book of all the photos where my hands are in the air, don't worry.

Salto Dos Hermanos.
Blue skies and sunshine came out to play.
Lesson learned from the day before.

Since I'm a wild party animal and I love the cold weather (HA!) , I basically HAD to visit the Ice Bar in Puerto Iguazu while we were in Argentina. Unfortunately, I was ill-prepared and only had shorts and flip flops, but being from the snowbelt must have prepared me for the cold temperatures because I didn't die. We suited up in our parkas and gloves and spent 30 minutes in the ice bar (which was a balmy 14-20F) drinking unlimited drinks. Money well spent.

As a Christmas present to myself, I didn't set a budget for the trip. If I wanted something, I was going to buy it. If I wanted to do something, I was going to pay for it. It's likely that I won't make it back to Foz do Iguaçu and I didn't want to leave with regrets. Because of this philosophy, I forked over some cash and took a helicopter ride over the falls. I was SO excited that one of the workers had to tell me to calm down. I am not ashamed. It was worth every single penny that I spent on it-- one of the coolest things I have ever done.

After seeing the falls via bus, trails on the Brazilian side, trails on the Argentinian side, and helicopter, Kelly and I figured that we might as well go big or go home and see the falls by boat. We donned our beloved ponchos (which was the best R$5/ $1.25USD that I have ever spent) and hopped into a speed boat into the falls. I may or may not have squealed like a little girl. I will neither confirm nor deny. 

Each thing we did in Iguaçu was better than the last and Kelly and I were frequently proclaiming that "THIS is the coolest thing I have ever done!" We packed A LOT into two and a half days (Brazilian falls, two trips to Argentina, accepting a ride from a Spanish speaking stranger, a helicopter ride, the Ice Bar, and a boat ride-- just as a recap) and everything about the trip really was some of the coolest stuff I have ever done. Living so far away from home and my family and my friends and American food can really stink sometimes. But then I do something like this and realize that this is my LIFE. And while it's difficult at times, it's also really, really awesome.

Since no adventure is complete without a little travel SNAFU. While we were preparing to land back in Rio, the pilot told us that the runway was crowded so we had to circle a bit before landing. No problem until it was an hour later, we were still circling, and we were running low on fuel. So instead we flew to  Belo Horizonte, which is a city in another state, to re-fuel and then fly back to Rio. But we got a second helping of snacks, so it's all okay.

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